Introduction: Make a Flying Appa From Avatar: the Last Airbender

About: I’m a 20 year old Maker from the Philippines hallu

Avatar: The Last Airbender is a childhood classic. It’s indeed an entertaining and very philosophical show so the re-emergence of the show's popularity in the past few months came as a delight to most people during the COVID-19 quarantine. One of the best parts of the show, for me, is the cute, trusty (and did I say cute?) ally of the protagonists: Appa. Appa, in the show, is what they call a sky bison with the ability to fly. Now as much as I would wish to have my own sky bison, sadly they do not exist in real life.(Sorry, actual bisons, but you an't fly.)

So if it doesn’t exist, we'll build its way into existence. Okay maybe I don’t have air bending (or in this case, reality-bending powers) to bring Appa to life. However, I can do the next best thing, and hey, this can also be a nice arts and crafts project! Given the limitations brought about by our current global situation, I have to make-do with the materials I have at my disposal as shops and malls have hardly re-opened(at least from where I come from). Meaning, most of the materials I’ll use for this project are things I found lying around my home out of the lack of alternatives and ideally recycled. (Let’s save what’s left of our environment, you guys.)

So without further ado, let’s Yip-Yip our way to an Appa!


Now all my materials are things I exclusively found at home. Due to the lockdown, I’m unable to go out and get some, but if you can go out, try to find nice materials.

•Any cheap quadcopter drone
-It is important to use a drone that you are willing to PAINT and GLUE permanently. I had one lying around at home and as much as would have wanted to build a better one from scratch, like I said, most stores haven’t re-opened yet and online shopping is limited too given the shipping and travelling restrictions around the world due to the pandemic. So getting a cheap drone from a local dollar store might be the best bet for most of us.

•Foam board
-This foam board has to be the type with paper covering both sides. Don’t confuse this with the typical styrofoam board(which falls apart easily when you cut it with a blade)

•Crepe paper [brown, white, and grey(optional)]
-Some stores label this as ‘tissue paper.’ You can also use Japanese paper since that’s pretty light. With a stronger drone, you can use regular bond paper.

•Any piece of white paper
-Recycled paper works well enough! Plus points for sustainability efforts.

-Craft blade or any cutter
-Hot Glue Gun
-Super Glue(Optional)

Step 1: Setting Up the Chassis

The chassis is pretty much the main component we’re working on for this project. But we have to first make sure it works and adjusted well enough to work with the drone.

1.Start by tracing the outer corners of the drone on the foam board. Connect the corners with straight lines.

2.Cut the center piece out.

Now we want the chassis to be as light as we possibly can for it to be able to fly properly, especially when using a cheap dollar store drone like I did.

3.We still have to maintain rigidity in its structure so offset at least an inch margin on all 4 edges.

NOTE: Testing is important! Make sure to regularly check if the drone can carry the piece without trouble after every step. This is crucial as this piece alone will most likely take up HALF of the total weight of the chassis, so it has to be able to carry this and everything else.

Step 2: Preparing the Skeleton

The frame, or more appropriately the skeleton, is what will hold everything together so I designed the parts to be as thin as light as possible yet rigid enough to stand on its own, and at times take possible impact.

1.Cut the foam board using a craft blade or a cutter.

2.Use either superglue or hot glue to hold everything together. (Super glue works better since it won't add that much weight.)

Given that the drone sizes may vary depending on what you'll use, just adjust the attached template to whichever size works best for you.

NOTE: Test! Don't forget to test if the drone can carry and balance the pieces.

Step 3: Adding the Fur

What makes Appa the fuzzball that he is is his fluffy fur. No, we're not using actual fur so please don't go shaving your dog. For this project, we're gonna use crepe paper as it's one of the lightest types of paper for this use. You can also use Japanese paper.

1.Cut the crepe paper into 1"x 4" strips and 1"x2" strips.

2.Stick the strips to the edges of the chassis. Overlap the strips to make it look more 'fur-like' as shown in the pics.

-Use the longer strips on the higher arcs, the head and the tail. Use the smaller strips on the lower arcs on the lower back and front edges. Overlap the strips to make it look more 'fur-like' as shown in the pics. White glue works well.

3.Don't forget Appa's signature bangs! and his goatee(or can it be called a bisonee?)

NOTE: Use as many strips as needed to make it look fluffy, but be aware of the weight as adding too much can make the chassis too heavy. Leave some strips for the next step.

Step 4: Making Legs

Sky bisons have 6 legs! So for this step, we need to make 6 strips for our Appa.

1.Cut 6 pieces of 5"x11" of crepe paper and fold them up to a 1" offset.

2.With long 1" wide strips of brown crepe paper, wrap them around the tips of the legs just above the fold.

3.Use some 1" x 2" strips of crepe paper with the same overlapping pattern for the fur.

4.Repeat this step 5 more times and and stick them accordingly.

NOTE: As I've mentioned, the measurements can depend on how big or small you want it to be so just adjust accordingly.

Step 5: Adding the Tiny Details

We're so close to having an Appa! So far, we've got the frame and the fur, now let's add the details to make Appa much more recognizable.

1.Follow the pattern and use brown crepe paper (or grey for the mouth if you have) for Appa's face and highlights, and some white paper or his eyes. I used some left over foam board for the horns.

2. Cut pieces of triangles for some highlights on Appa's back.

3.Glue everything together with as little glue as possible(Recall the weight problem, and no, Appa, I'm not calling you fat.)

4.I also ended up repainting the drone white to fit the color more. The decals were nice so it was painful process. 5.Permanently glue the drone to the chassis.

NOTE: As with the frame, just resize the pieces to what works for you.

Step 6: YIP YIP

Then he’s all set! Since we’re still under lockdown in my country due to COVID-19, I unfortunately do not have the luxury to fly him outside out of fear for my safety and for my family’s and strict quarantine guidelines. But that doesn’t mean we can’t get him to fly indoors! (Appa would want you to stay at home)

So until the pandemic’s over, Appa will be reign the skies—er ceiling. YipYip!

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